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Faith Communities Play A Vital Role in Ensuring Human Security

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Viewpoint by Hirotsugu Terasaki

The author is Vice President, Director General of International Bureau, Peace and Global Issues, United Nations Liaison Offices, Soka Gakkai. The following is the text of his remarks at the opening session of the two-day Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions on October 10, 2018 in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

ASTANA (IDN-INPS) – First of all, I would like to thank the Republic of Kazakhstan for giving me this opportunity to speak on behalf of the members of Soka Gakkai, as well as for organizing this truly meaningful meeting dedicated to interfaith dialogue.

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The Soka Gakkai is a Buddhist organization that upholds the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, one of the central teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, which constitutes the philosophical basis of our activities.

Based on the principles of the dignity of life, compassion, equality and harmonious coexistence, the Soka Gakkai is dedicated to the happiness of each individual and aims to contribute to society through its activities promoting peace, culture and education. The word “Soka” means “value creation” and “Gakkai” means “association.” Our headquarters is located in Tokyo, Japan, and we have a total of 12 million members in more than 100 countries around the world.

I would like to share my views on Human Security and the role of faith communities. In today’s world, many people and societies are experiencing benefits from rapid scientific and technological development.

However, the by-products of such development are threatening the existence of humanity and the planet. We are facing fundamental threats posed by nuclear weapons, climate change, planetary environmental destruction and the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor created by speculation and casino-style financial markets.

These issues cannot be resolved merely through the prevailing logical and rational ways of thinking. More than ever, it is vital for us as people of faith to draw on the heritage of wisdom that humanity has accumulated over several thousand years, from well before the modern age, and to demonstrate the relevance and power of such wisdom.

I believe that people of faith whose lives are based on deeply rooted ethical and moral traditions have an important role to play.

Modern societies are tending to fall into patterns of xenophobia and isolationism. Faith communities are playing a vital role to counteract such tendencies by upholding universal values that inspire a concern for the “common good” and generate vital “public space” where citizens can interact on common ground.

Put another way, faith communities can provide a spiritual pillar or backbone for a shared sense of a common home and harmonious coexistence embracing all humanity. Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) can collaborate in generating and expanding such peaceful “public space” by transcending the differences of our respective faith traditions and promoting common universal values.

I believe that many of us here today share a common perspective on this point.

One example of such collaboration has been seen in interfaith efforts towards the adoption of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in July, 2017. Various FBOs, including groups from Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist traditions, gathered to share common concerns about the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons that are incompatible with the values upheld by their faith traditions.

The group “Faith Communities Concerned about Nuclear Weapons” has to date issued nine joint statements, in collaboration with the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate ICAN – the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – on the occasion of the negotiation conferences for the TPNW and recent Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conferences.

This year in April, the group also issued a joint statement at the PrepCom for the 2020 NPT Review Conference. It states: “As people of faith, we advocate for the right of all people to live in security and dignity; we seek to heed the commands of conscience and the call to justice; we are united in our determination to protect the vulnerable and to exercise the stewardship that will safeguard Earth for present and future generations.

“Nuclear weapons profoundly violate all these values and commitments. We can never accept a conception of security that privileges the concerns of any state or nation over the good of the human and planetary whole. The horrific destructiveness of nuclear weapons makes their abolition the only path to authentic human security.”

In the statement, as people of faith, we urged States parties to:

“Heed the voices of the world’s hibakusha (all the victims of nuclear weapons) and recommit to the unequivocal undertaking to achieve and maintain a world without nuclear weapons, noting that the fundamental justification for the TPNW is the prevention of the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of such weapons.”

Anyone who is interested in supporting such initiatives is welcome to join with us, and I hope that on some future occasion, when we deliver a new interfaith statement, you might lend us your support and involve all those in our respective faith communities who are concerned about these issues.

The statement I quoted earlier reads: “people of faith […] advocate for the right of all people to live in security and dignity.” Today, we cannot but be aware of the limitations of the traditional security approach that privileges the concerns of a particular state or nation above everything else.

For this reason, we are impelled to raise our voices supporting the transition to a new set of security principles that focus more on the security of each individual rather than state interests and state security.

In that sense, the real definition of “human security” should be as a common ground or meeting place where people of faith can collaborate towards peace and well-being for all.

Today, more than ever, it is important to direct our attention to the lived reality of each and every human being in all issues. We are called upon to fulfill our role and raise our voices of conscience. [IDN-InDepthNews – 11 October 2018]

Photo: Hirotsugu Terasaki, Vice President, Director General of International Bureau, Peace and Global Issues, United Nations Liaison Offices, Soka Gakkai, addressing the opening session of the two-day Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions on October 10, 2018 in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri, IDN-INPS Multimedia director.

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